Miranda July’s third feature film, Kajillionaire, had its British premiere during the London Film Festival on October 7. With visually-arresting images, Kajillionaire offers an off-beat view at an unusual family of petty crime hustlers.
Kajillionaire opens at a bus station. As the bus passes, an old couple and a young woman wearing tracksuits did not get on. They are waiting for the road to be clear. Once it is, the young woman performs choreographed gymnastic moves in front of the post office entrance and gets in. She comes out having stolen someone’s parcel.
The young woman is called Old Dollio (Rachel Evan Wood), a name she was given by her parents after a homeless man, we will later find out. The old couple are her parents, Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger). As the opening sequence shows, thy are a family of low stakes criminals. They live in a decrepit office building in LA, with a wall that leaks at scheduled times vast amounts of a light pink foam, which the trio must clear and clean so the wall won’t rot. Even though the building seems completely uninhabitable, they still owe rent, and are three months behind paying it.
After winning a trip to New York, Old Dollio devises a plan to make the three-month rent by claiming insurance on lost luggage. Unbeknownst to Old Dollio, that trip will change the entire course of her life. On the way back, her parents meet Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) who has taken the seat next to them on the plane and are immediately taken with her. They even reveal to her their scam. Melanie quickly becomes part of their trio, as she finds herself pulled into their schemes.
As an attraction forms between Old Dollio and Melanie, Old Dollio slowly sees who her parents really are. But will she be able to find a way to finally emancipate herself from them?
Kajillionaire is a film that is intriguing because of its odd-ball quirkiness. Every frame is a delight to see, the soft pastel colors contrasting with the harsh sense of desolation each image contains. July portrays here a society obsessed with consuming. Melanie’s mother, for example, keeps buying things online, sending everything that she has bought twice to her daughter, furnishing her apartment with all this stuff. Melanie’s heist idea is to steal old antique objects around her clients’ homes. Old Dollio, Robert and Theresa are not interested in these objects, there are just interested in finding enough money to survive.
Miranda July creates a family unit completely off-beat with the rest of society, choosing to live off-grid as it were. They are outsiders because they refuse to behave in the conventional ways others so easily fall into. When Old Dollio asks her mother why she’s never called her “hon,” Theresa responds by asking her why she would want her to act like a “false fakey person.”
This is a way of living that suits Theresa and Robert, but they never seem to have asked themselves whether it would suit their daughter. Through Melanie, Old Dollio discovers the way she was brought up is not usual. There is a sense that the moment Melanie essentially takes her place next to her parents on the plane, it enables Old Dollio to see her parents from a different perspective. She slowly realizes that her parents have created their own unique logic, and no one else behaves the way they do.
There are some really delightful moments in the film, especially between Melanie and Old Dollio. The sequence when Old Dollio is removing Melanie’s fake nails could have easily fallen into kitsch, but in Miranda July’s hands becomes a memorable moment in the film.
Kajillionaire is now in cinemas across the U.K. since October 9